An open letter to CNN by Nogami Takeshi
You have probably heard about CNN recently stirring up gratuitous controversy over Rapelay, an issue that should have died down almost a year ago. It is not difficult to imagine that lobby groups within Japan are using Western media to put pressure on Japanese elected officials on related issues. And it might be working: at any rate, that CNN report is getting quite a bit of attention on the Japanese Internet (though not yet on mainstream media). CNN is also getting many hits for that piece of quality reporting, to the point that reporter Kyung Lah got to put up an even finer follow-up article yesterday: a cultural-essentialist explanation of why Japan is so perverted. And there were a couple of silly CNN blog posts on the subject in between, to boot.
Nogami Takeshi, a Japanese mangaka known for such works as Koutetsu no shoujo-tachi (art, Shounen Ace), Serafuku to juusensha (Champion Red Ichigo) or various artworks for the Strike Witches franchise, has written an open letter to CNN in reaction to the latest report. He asked if someone could translate it. I am pleased to oblige. Note that I may not agree with all arguments made in this letter, and I don't really think it's likely to gain many supporters for our viewpoint, but it's an entertaining read.
Dear CNN reporter,
I am an author of manga [Japanese comic books]. I started out drawing hentai manga. I put out hentai books. Of course, I also draw manga that aren't hentai. Nowadays, most of my work consists of non-hentai manga.
I have seen your news report that tries to stir up fear, prejudice and misunderstanding. I have no connection with the spiffy hentai game featured in your report, I am sorry to say; however as an author of Japanese hentai manga, I think I am well qualified to object to the views you present.
As this objection had to be put together promptly, precise data will be presented later, but it is a fact that in this 21st century, we Japanese enjoy one of the most safe and peaceful societies on Earth. Naturally, that is not to say that our society is without problems, but to be honest, I frankly do not think that you are the ones to tell us.
Men and women are equals in politics and in the law. Your society and ours are no different there. Moreover, the crime rate statistics for both general crime and sex crime in Japan are, with all due respect, several times lower than in the United States. Did you, for instance, fear for your safety while walking the streets of Akihabara, or Ikebukuro (holy ground of hentai books for women)? They're probably many times safer than the streets of New York, let alone those of the suburban housing districts around. (And guns are illegal, too.) Furthermore, in our Akihabara and Ikebukuro, there is no persecution of men or women alike, or of sexual minorities like homosexuals. We all live together in peace, expressing ourselves freely.
It also goes without saying that human trafficking and violence against women are serious crimes in Japan too. As a Japanese citizen, I am deeply offended by the insulting implications of that so-called expert who associates Japanese people at large with heinous criminals.
Is hentai detrimental to the upbringing of children? Yes, it some circumstances it may well be the case. It certainly true, for instance, of that game you reported about. I am an average citizen with a younger sister and two nephews; I can relate to your concerns. And precisely as such, I beg to differ with your argument.
Those products are developed for rational adults. You surely don't believe that a rational adult would be influenced by such a game into committing rape, do you? Of course, in Japan, both that game you reported about and the hentai manga I draw are only distributed and sold under strict age restrictions to adults.
That your children might obtain such materials on the Internet is a trouble for us as well. Those are pirated copies. We would be grateful if you could let families and schools issue proper warnings to children. And would it be too much to ask that appropriate age restrictions are put in place in stores in your country so that the rational adults can buy legitimate copies?
By the way, in the proud Japanese traditional popular art of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints from the Edo period), there were many works with sexual subjects, called shunga. You did like these too, didn't you? Well, we are their successors. We make works of art. Let me say that again. It is just art. I assume that you are capable of distinguishing fiction from reality like we do. Are you not?
Obscenity? Ah well, on that point, I would rather quote from the book beside your bed.
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
I am afraid I am Buddhist, not Christian, but I respect your Lord nonetheless. His word that you, me and all mankind are hentai is pregnant with meaning. Yet, there is a difference between “His” views (that you share) and mine. I do not think that people being hentai is a sin. There is nothing wrong with rational people being hentai.
I, at any rate, do not see anything wrong with that. Do you?